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Harmonica Lessons: Tongue Blocking

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>> The other
method of getting a single note on
the harmonica, is called Tongue Blocking.
Now this is a very interesting technique,
because it can also,
as you'll see later,
be used to provide rhythmic patterns.
And also to tongue block
things our in the middle
between two notes that are on the side.
But for right now, I'm just gonna show you
how to tongue block notes on one side and
get a single note out of the other side.
The idea is the holes on
the harmonica are separated naturally
by the partitions between them.
The partitions are part of what's
called the comb of the harmonica.
That's the central part
here that has slots.
And if you took the harmonica apart,
which I'll do later, it looks exactly like
a comb that you'd run through your hair.
So you put your tongue,
first just try putting your tongue over
the harmonica,
just to get the feeling of what it's like.
And the idea with tongue blocking is
that you would put your tongue over,
let's say the second and third holes.
So, what you do, if you want, you can
you can blow one, two, and
three separately or you can blow one,
two, and three all together.
that gives you what's
called the C major chord.
I'm gonna sneak in a little bit of music
terminology, which I'll explain later.
But that's a C major chord
playing the first, second and
third holes of the harmonica.
The idea is that you wanna cover the
second and third holes with your tongue.
And now I played that with my tongue,
covering holes two and
three and I got hole one to come
out of the left side of my mouth.
I blew on one and I draw,
I blow and I draw on one.
Trying to use the past tense.
You blow and you draw on one, and
keeping your tongue in this position.
I personally don't use this
method to get single notes.
I have always used the pucker
ever since I started playing.
But, traditional style Chicago
blues players most of them,
although not all of them,
use the tongue block method.
Because it works very well in
tandem with rhythmic vamping.
Things that sound like this.
Where the tongue is in the center and
the notes are coming out of the side.
So if you change the size of your mouth
you can go back and forth between just
getting one not out of one side
and getting notes out of both sides.
So the tongue blocking technique
has a lot of sides to it.
There's a lot of aspects to it
that come in very useful for
playing certain kinds of music.
And you can see why certain players
would prefer to use tongue-blocking for
single notes.
You can also tongue-block out
of the left side of your mouth.
And play out of the right side.
Right now I just tongue blocked,
one and two.
And now I am playing three blow out
of the right side of my mouth.
three blow, three draw, three blow,
three draw.
So you can practice this and
the same as with the pucker,
you can move that position.
Except when you get
toward the bottom of the harmonica.
Obviously, once you get below three,
you can't play the notes out of
the top side of your mouth you
have to play them on the bottom.
So you can also practice
moving to get a single
motion with tongue blocking.
Blocking two and three out of
the right side of your mouth and
sliding up the harmonica
all the way till eight.
Because you're blocking nine and
ten with the right side of your tongue.
So for those of you who wanna pursue
tongue blocking as a single note method.
These are the kinda things that you
should start out by learning how to do.
And also, alternate blowing and
drawing on each hole.
So now I wanna introduce to you a more
advanced version of
the tongue blocking idea
that I showed you earlier for
getting single notes.
Where you block off a part of your mouth
with your tongue and you cover some holes
with it and play out of the side of
your mouth, either the right or
the left side, to get single notes.
The more elaborate kind of tongue
blocking happens where you block some of
the holes in the middle of your mouth and
you play out of both sides of your mouth.
So, if you're looking at the harmonica,
you can see for
example, pretend this is my tongue,
I can block off the second and
third holes with my tongue and play around
them on the first and fourth holes.
So if I start out finding the size of
the harmonica, just like playing Susanna.
I'm covering four holes with my mouth.
It's pretty easy.
I think everyone watching this, their
mouth is big enough to cover four holes.
Probably I mean, I could cover seven
holes [SOUND] if I really tried.
But four holes is easy, [SOUND] so
if you just put your tongue in the middle.
Of course it's easy for me,
cuz I've done it for years, and
it's gonna take you a little while.
[SOUND] If you close your eyes,
you'll feel that the rail that's
part of the comb there is that the tip
of your tongue the middle of the tip
of your tongue is on that rail
between the second and third hole.
that's how you create
a tongue block octave.